|The Genuine Tenets of Freemasonry
(Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth)|
The principal, or chief, tenets of Freemasonry are, Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth.
It is necessary not to overlook the word "principal," for it signifies that, while it is on these three teachings that our Fraternity lays the greatest emphasis, yet there are other teachings of almost equal importance, and in any discussion of our subject those others must not be lost sight of.
By a "tenet" is meant some teaching so obviously true, so universally accepted,
that we believe it without question and always take it for granted.
Examples of such teachings lie everywhere about us.
Good health is better than illness;
a truthful man is more dependable than a liar;
it is better to save money than to waste it;
an industrious man is more useful than an idle one;
a wise man is a more able counsellor than a foolish one;
education is to be preferred to ignorance;
these are but a few of the countless examples of teachings that
no intelligent man can possibly call into question.
Everybody takes them for granted.
They are tenets.
When we turn to the Principal Tenets of our own Fraternity we are
immediately struck by an interesting fact:
Freemasonry considers Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth to be teachings of this kind!
It holds them to be true in a sense that no man can question them:
they are obvious, self-proving, axiomatic.
I wonder if you have always considered them to be so?
Is it not a common thing for men to consider Brotherly Love, for example,
to be such a thing that, while it might be highly desirable,
it is not practicable, and is therefore nothing but a floating vision,
to be dreamed of but never possessed?
It is challenging for Freemasonry to call such things "tenets,"
for it means that they are not only true, but plainly and obviously and necessarily true.
Unless you can grasp this fact, unless you can see for yourself that
the teachings of Freemasonry are realities, self-evident realities, and not visionary ideals,
you will never be able to understand Masonic teachings.
For Freemasonry does not tell us that Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth ought to be true,
that it would be better for us all if they were true - it tells us that they are true.
They are tremendous realities in human life, and it is as impossible to question their existence,
as it is to question the existence of the ground under our feet, or the sun over our heads.
The question is not whether we shall believe in them or not, for we cannot help but believe in them;
the question is, what we are going to do about them?
Let us now reflect a moment upon the Principal Tenets, beginning with Brotherly Love.
By love is meant the placing of the highest possible valuation on another person.
A man's mother or father, his wife or sweetheart, his children, his intimate friends,
he values for himself - not for advantages he may gain from them,
not for their usefulness to him, but solely each one in his own person and for his own sake.
We work for such persons, we make sacrifices for them, we delight to be with them; that,
in detail and practice, is what is meant by love.
What then is Brotherly Love?
Manifestly, it means that we place on another man the highest possible valuation as a friend,
a companion, an associate, a neighbour, a fellow.
Merely to be with him, merely to spend hours in his company,
to have the privilege of working at his side, is all we ask.
We do not ask that from our relationship we shall make money,
or further our business interests, or achieve some other form of selfish gain.
Our relationship with such a one is its own excuse for being, its own justification, its own reward.
All of us know that this Brotherly Love is one of the supreme goods
without which life is a lonely, unhappy, ugly kind of thing.
This is not a hope or a dream, but a fact - as real as day and night, or as the law of gravity.
Freemasonry builds on that fact, takes it for granted,
provides opportunities for us to have such fellowship,
encourages us to understand and to practice it,
and to make it one of the laws of our existence;
it is, in short, and in literal truth, one of its Principal Tenets.
Relief, which stands next in order, is one of the forms taken by the general principle of Charity.
One must be distinguished from the other, however, especially as Charity is most often interpreted.
When we think of Charity we think of pauperism, or of chance poverty;
we think of it as being a condition it is necessary for the community or the state to care for.
A man is crippled or chronically ill, or he is the victim of a wave of unemployment,
or he is addicted to some vice, such as drink or gambling,
with the result that his dependents are left in want;
to care for such a man is deemed usually to be a responsibility resting on the public,
and as a rule the public discharges that responsibility through some form of
organized effort financed by general subscriptions or out of public funds.
The Masonic conception of Relief is somewhat different from this.
While it happens that now and then some Brother, through misfortune and no fault of his own,
becomes more or less permanently incapacitated to support himself and family,
and under such circumstances is cared for by Outside Relief, at the Masonic Home,
or by his Lodge, such cases are the exception rather than the rule,
and are not what is meant by Masonic Relief.
The qualifications demanded of a petitioner are such as to exclude the type of men who,
through indolence or vice, may be expected to lapse into pauperism or into chronic poverty.
Masonic Relief takes it for granted, instead, that any man, no matter how industrious
and frugal he may be, may through sudden misfortune, or other conditions over which
he has no control, find himself in temporary need of a helping hand.
To extend to him a helping hand under such circumstances is not what is generally described
as charity, but is one of the natural and inevitable acts of Brotherhood.
Any possible conception of Brotherhood must, in the very nature of the case,
include as a part of itself this willingness to give help, aid and assistance.
Therefore Relief, as thus Masonically understood, is in strict truth a Tenet.
If we are going to have Brotherhood at all,
we shall expect this free and cordial spirit of helpfulness to be a part of it.
By Truth, the last of the Principal Tenets,
is meant something more than the search for truths in the intellectual sense,
though that is included necessarily,
and is one of the things meant by Freemasonry's motto,
"Let there be light."
By Truth is meant that if we are to have a permanent Brotherhood
its members must be truthful in character and habit,
dependable, men of honor as well as of honesty,
men on whom we can rely to be faithful fellows and loyal friends.
Surely no argument is needed to prove that Truth, as thus understood,
is a necessity, that it is required in the nature of things if a Brotherhood is to exist,
and therefore something we should all take for granted as being beyond question.
As said in the beginning, Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth are the Principal Tenets of Masonry.
There are other Tenets, also, teachings of a truth and
necessity so obvious that argument is never necessary to sustain them.
You are urged to ponder the teachings of the Craft as you progress
from Degree to Degree with this in mind.
You may not find that any of them are novel, or exciting.
Novelty, however, while it may at times have its own interest,
is not to be compared in value with the knowledge that
the truths on which Freemasonry is founded are eternal:
they are never new, neither are they ever old;
time cannot wither nor custom stale their infinite variety,
the freshness of immortality is on them because they never die,
in them is a ceaseless inspiration and an inexhaustible appeal.
They are tenets of Freemasonry because always and
everywhere they have been tenets of human life.
This short article is taken from the GL California Masonic Education program -
Tier One - The Entered Apprentice.
Interestingly enough, in another part of the same program there is a compelling argument against using the term "Masonic Education" as it is seen by many as too formal, stuffy and academic.
Instead some lodges have renamed their education component with more appealing (and presumably less threatening) names such as "Further Light".
The program is quite extensive with separate sections for all three degrees, however the differences in ritual between the Californian jurisdiction and the Emulation-based ritual of here in Victoria means you really do need to have been taught to be cautious.|
Lodge Education Officer
6th July 2011